The Grammys Dodged Politics, But A Tribe Called Quest Blasted Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

Lead Photo: Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
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This awards season has addressed the country’s political turmoil more explicitly than ever before, but the Grammys seemed to trail behind others this year. For the most part, the ceremony dodged politics; many entertainers (and Recording Academy president Neil Portnow) opted for clichéd platitudes about the role of music in building community and solidarity, instead of pointed political critiques. What’s more, after 59 years, we’re still clamoring for airtime for Latinx artists. Like the Rap/Sung and R&B Performance awards, the winners of the Latinx categories aren’t typically televised – we’re supposed to be happy with our own “niche” ceremony.

As the consequences of Trump’s anti-immigrant policies loom larger, the Grammys would have been an important platform to address the political climate, or at the very least, structural inequality in the music industry, especially as Beyoncé’s virtuosic Lemonade lost out to Adele for Album of the Year. Either way, here’s a roundup of what you may have missed at the February 12 show:


J.Lo quoted Toni Morrison

J.Lo opened the ceremony by presenting the award for Best New Artist. In her speech, she cited an essay Morrison wrote for The Nation’s 150th anniversary issue – a call to action reflecting on the work of artists and creators in politically fraught times.


J.Lo struggled with a star-studded rendition of “Sweet Caroline”

Along with John Legend, James Corden, Blue Ivy, and Neil Diamond himself, J.Lo hosted a “Sweet Caroline” singalong a la Carpool Karaoke, though everyone seemed to mumble their way through.


Beyoncé’s stellar performance drew inspiration from Oshun and La Virgen

In a devastatingly gorgeous celebration of black motherhood, Beyoncé performed a medley of “Love Drought” and “Sandcastles.” Queen B sported a golden crown, glittery dress, and recited Warshan Shire’s How to Wear Your Mother’s Lipstick. On social media, the costume drew many comparisons to Yoruba goddess Oshun and La Virgen de Guadalupe.


iLe won a grammy for Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album

The Calle 13 alum nabbed her first Grammy Award last night, and thanked her abuela on Twitter.


A Tribe Called Quest denounced anti-immigrant sentiment in their performance of “We The People”

In one of the most explicitly political performances of the night, A Tribe Called Quest, Consequence, Busta Rhymes and Anderson.Paak performed “We the People,” a cut from ATCQ’s 2016 album We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. The song explicitly addresses the current climate of anti-Mexican and anti-immigrant hostility: “All you Black folks, you must go/All you Mexicans, you must go/And all you poor folks, you must go.” Visuals of pro-immigrant slogans flashed in the background, including “Build bridges, not walls” and “Immigrants make America great.” Immigrants of all backgrounds joined the performers on stage at the end of the song.


Bruno Mars gave Prince the tribute he deserves

Though the Purple One famously disliked covers of his own songs, the Boricua star delivered a killer performance of “Let’s Go Crazy” from Purple Rain (I don’t know about you, but those licks definitely melted my face).


Gina Rodriguez absorbed some of Queen B’s glory by osmosis

Gina Rodriguez introduced Alicia Keys and Maren Morris to perform “Once” – and managed to soak in Queen B’s greatness.